A Long Afternoon

I like to take naps on Sunday afternoons, but I knew my nap time today would be severely limited by my having to be at the church building at 4:00 PM for the monthly elders’ and ministers’ meeting.

When I left, the Braves were down 4-2.

The meeting went okay, but it was loooooong, and I didn’t get out until 5:40. At that point I realized I didn’t have much time to get the PowerPoint announcements ready by church time, and so I began hurrying around the building, booting up the computer and tracking down people I needed to talk to for information.

At that point, I got a call from the wife, who informed me that she couldn’t find her car keys anywhere. After confirming that her keys weren’t in my car, I explained the situation to Larry (the preacher I work with) and a couple of others and went to go pick her up.

I had only made it about five minutes down the road when I got backed up at a stop light. In the left hand lane of a five lane road (two lanes each way and a turn lane), I began to inch my car forward when the light turned green.

As I started to pass a car which was stationary to my right, a car which was pulling out of a driveway to my right and trying to cross traffic caught my eye. It had pulled in front of the car to my right, but rather than stop to see if there was anyone in the left lane, the driver just zoomed ahead and plowed into my car, by the front passenger tire.

Needless to say, I didn’t make it back in time for church services.

Fortunately, neither of us was hurt, and we were able to get our cars out of the road without much trouble. Also fortunately, the accident wasn’t my fault, so the insurance shouldn’t be too much of a problem, and my parents were able to pick up my car key-less wife and come to get me.

Unfortunately, Kermit (my car) is now undriveable, and I have to deal with getting him fixed, hassle with insurance companies and get a rental car.

Then my dad informed me that after taking the lead, the Braves managed to lose in dramatic fashion late in the game.

So that’s the bad news.

The good news is that when I got home, I found the missing car keys.


We Could’ve Had This Guy…

A high-profile coach signed on with a low-profile program this week when Rick Majerus reached a six year agreement with the St. Louis Billikens.

With a career record of 422-147 and 10 conference titles in the Mid-American Conference, Western Athletic Conference and Mountain West Conference, Majerus’ best season came in 1998, when he lead the Utah Utes to the National Championship game and won the John Wooden Award as the National Coach of the Year.

Majerus has had weight-related health issues in recent years, and also received criticism for changing his mind and deciding not to coach at USC after just a few days a couple of years ago. That being said, he is certainly a great hire for a school like St. Louis.

He was actually my favorite choice for the Arkansas job, and was interested in the job (to the point that he reportedly promised to lose 50 pounds by season’s start to allay concern about his health), but the Razorbacks told him “No thanks,” and went for some guy from a no-name school instead.

I like Majerus and hope he does well at St. Louis. I also hope the Razorbacks don’t come to regret passing on him.


The Apple of ESPN’s Eye, or The Yankees/Red Sox Rivalry

Although it probably shouldn’t be this way, I’ve pretty much decided that all forms of media are biased in some way.

The Fox News Channel is conservative, while virtually every other news channel is slanted to the left. Around here in Northwest Arkansas, some media outlets rabidly support Arkansas football coach Houston Nutt, while others are decidedly against him.

Bias is a part of media; I guess I shouldn’t expect ESPN to be any different.

Yesterday, the Atlanta Braves and the New York Mets battled each other in a classic game. Future Hall of Famers and former teammates John Smoltz and Tom Glavine pitched gems through five innings.

Atlanta got to Glavine in the 6th to take a 3-1 lead, but the Mets responded in the bottom half of the inning. New York touched Smoltz for five runs, highlighted by a José Reyes bases clearing triple and Braves manager Bobby Cox being thrown out of the game for arguing balls and strikes.

Down 6-3 and facing the Mets’ formidable bullpen, Atlanta tied it up in the 7th with an Edgar Renteria three-run home run, and then surged ahead in the 8th with another three-run shot, this one by Kelly Johnson.

The Mets threatened in the 8th and 9th but failed to score, and Atlanta held on for the victory, which gave them a half-game lead over the Mets for the NL East lead and put the rest of the league on notice that the Braves are back.

It was quite a game, but apparently, only warranted about 60 seconds of the 90 minute ESPN Sportscenter broadcast that night. Certainly, there were a lot of sports to cover yesterday with the opening of the NBA playoffs, but ESPN may have had more time to recap the Braves/Mets game if they hadn’t spent 10 minutes going over the highlights the Yankees/Red Sox game.

The New York/Boston game was significant; the Red Sox win gave Boston its first sweep of the Yankees at Fenway since the early 1990s, the BoSox hit four consecutive home runs in the game for the first time in team history (the last time any AL team did that was in 1964) and Dice-K was pitching.

It was a good game, but it didn’t merit 10 times the coverage of the Braves/Mets game.

But if you watch much ESPN, this shouldn’t be surprising. The network that is infamous for portraying the Duke Blue Devils as a contender for the NCAA basketball championship in a season when they are barely treading water in ACC play always blows the New York/Boston rivalry way out of proportion.

The Yankees and Red Sox have been playing each other for a long time, since 1903 actually, which is part of the rivalry, and New York and Boston are geographically close to each other (only 214 miles separate the two cities, almost exactly the distance between Fayetteville and Searcy), which adds to it as well.

But actually, throughout most of baseball history, the New York/Boston rivalry really hasn’t been much of a rivalry at all, especially to the Yankees, who have basically been dominating their chowder-eating counterparts for 85+ years now—since 1920, New York has won 39 pennants and 26 World Series Championships while Boston has won 5 pennants and 1 World Series Crown during that same span.

Sure, there have been a few moments of intrigue and points of contention over the years—the Babe Ruth trade and resulting “Curse,” the personal rivalry of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams in the 1940s, the Bucky Dent home run to send the Yankees to the playoffs in 1978 and Boston’s dramatic come-from-behind ALCS victory over New York in 2004—but any two teams who had played in the same division for 100+ years would have similar episodes.

Is there a rivalry between these two teams? Absolutely, and it is one that has intensified over the last decade with the re-emergence of both teams as perennial contenders.

But it still remains the most overplayed and trumped-up rivalry in all of professional sports, more the product of myopic, overzealous northeastern sportswriters than of history.

And seriously, the rest of us are getting tired of it.



In college and professional sports, teams retire the jersey numbers of the all-time greats who played for them. For example, no Chicago Bull can wear number 23, because that was Michael Jordan’s number, and it has been retired. No New York Yankee can wear number 3, because that was Babe Ruth’s number, and it has been retired. If you play Major League Baseball, no matter what team you play for, you can’t wear the number 42, because that was Jackie Robinson’s jersey number, and it is the only number to be retired by Major League Baseball.

Sixty years ago today, on April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson donned that number 42 Brooklyn Dodgers jersey and appeared in his first regular season Major League game.

Contrary to popular belief, Robinson was not the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues, but on that April day he did break baseball’s color barrier and became the first African-American to play Major League Baseball in the 20th century.

His Hall of Fame career and the way he handled himself on and off the field opened the door for other black athletes in professional sports, and it has been said that only Martin Luther King Jr. accomplished more for the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. than did Jackie Robinson.

Before he signed a contract to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson was called into the office of Team President and General Manager Branch Rickey. To give him a taste of what it would be like to be the only black player in the Big Leagues, Rickey spent 3 hours taunting and insulting Robinson, calling him every racial slur he could think of. Rickey then told Robinson that this is what he would face every day on the field, and that if he wanted it to work out, he would have to promise not to fight back or respond to insults of any kind for the first three years of his career.

Robinson, who possessed a fiery temperament and was very outspoken, was put off by this and asked, “Mr. Rickey, are you looking for a player who is afraid to fight back?”

Branch Rickey replied, “No, I want someone with guts enough not to fight back.”

And that’s exactly what Robinson did. When opposing baserunners tried to spike him when sliding into second base, he didn’t fight back. When fans and players yelled and cursed at him and questioned his humanity, he showed them how wrong they were by taking the moral high ground.

He had the guts not to fight back.

What Branch Rickey told Jackie Robinson reminds me of Jesus’ words in The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”

The world tells us to stand up for ourselves when we are treated unjustly. It tells us to have the courage to fight back and not let others push us around.

Jesus tells us to have the courage to show that we are different from the world because we don’t fight back, and He tells us to forgive others when they do mistreat us.

He wants followers with guts enough not to fight back.

Today, on the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game as a Dodger, representatives from each Major League team will wear number 42 in his honor.


On Dyslexia

Frank “Wildfire” Schulte (nicknamed after his pet horse) was a Major League right fielder who spent his best years playing for the great Chicago Cubs teams of the 1900s and 1910s.

A valuable part of the Cubs, Wildfire Schulte was often overshadowed by Hall of Famers Three Finger Brown, Joe Tinker, Johnny Evers and Frank Chance. However, for a few years, he was one of the National League’s top power hitters, although his numbers wouldn’t look very impressive today since he played during the Dead Ball Era.

Schulte’s best year came in 1911, when he hit .300 with 30 doubles, 21 triples, 21 home runs, 23 stolen bases and 107 RBI. He was the first player in the 20th century to hit 20 home runs in a season, and was rewarded for his efforts with the National League’s Most Valuable Player award and a brand new Chalmers automobile (which went to the MVP at the time).

Wildfire Schulte had a few other good seasons, but he wasn’t a Hall of Fame caliber player, and in the grand scheme of baseball history, wasn’t all that important. Which is probably why nobody really remembers him. In fact, I only tell you about him for this reason: I’ve read his name in baseball books for years, and it wasn’t until the other day that I realized his name was “Wildfire.”

Previously, I had always read it as “Wilfred.”

Talk about reordering your universe…

Sources for the statistics and some of the historical facts mentioned above include Baseball Reference and Wikipedia.


The Soap Opera Continues…

So it looks like you can completely disregard my post from yesterday.

It turns out that Dana Altman has changed his mind and is returning to his old job at Creighton.

It’s really getting hard to keep up with this whole coach search thing. First, we supposedly had Billy Gillispie from Texas A&M, then we were going after Bill Self from Kansas, then USC’s Tim Floyd and lastly John Calipari from Memphis before finally settling for Altman.

Apparently no one wants to coach at Arkansas.

A source close to the Arkansas Athletic Department has leaked that the job will be offered to me next, but so far I haven’t given any indication as to whether or not I am interested.

Seriously though, as the Arkansas Razorbacks increasingly become the laughingstock of the nation, it gets to be more and more difficult to be a Hog fan.

Over the weekend, I was in Little Rock with my wife’s family and we visited the Clinton Presidential Library. One of the items on display was a letter to President Clinton written by Nolan Richardson, who coached the Razorback basketball team to its first and only National Championship in 1994.

In times like this, I find solace in the words of wisdom offered by Richardson:

“Remember Though Times Don’t Last. However, Though People Do.”

So true.


Dana Altman? Seriously?

It has been reported that Dana Altman will be the new head basketball coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Dana Altman? Seriously? Is this a late April Fools joke?

Stan Heath had taken the Razorbacks to back to back NCAA Tournaments, but season ticket sales were lagging so we fire him and go out and get…who?

Heath’s style of play had been criticized so we go out and get someone with a similar style?

Dana? Isn’t that a girl name?

Dana Altman? Seriously?


Opening Day

“Great is baseball, the national tonic. The revival of hope. The restorer of confidence.”

-The Sporting News, 1931

The Doc File © 2006-2012 by Luke Dockery

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